Let's be frank. Managers at all levels are under a lot of pressure in this recession. Just yesterday we were at a party where a long-time friend, a senior exec at a major corporation, was present. In a brief conversation with his wife, she indicated that he had laid off 500 workers over the past few weeks, and she wasn't certain how he could handle the stress. Thankfully, for both the sake of employees as well as execs, there are very few of those settings. Responsibilities like that are one of the reasons many bosses lack significantly in transparency.
Still, the truth of the matter is that most of us, in a normal situation (whatever that is) would prefer our bosses to be more open with us. In a recent post, Lance Haun asked what some of us had learned about how to convince execs to be more transparent. Since my consulting relationship brings near automatic transparency, I hadn't thought about the issue, but I tossed a few comments into the hopper. After reflection I'm not so certain about some of them, but here's where I am now.
It's inevitable that when managers, no matter what their personality, are given power, they will become less focused on what others need in terms of openness or transparency--and that's a consistent research conclusion.
--asking about transparency is really about challenging a deeply held mental model about how the world of business works, a model that is gradually changing (more openness) in the new economy.
--transparency is a learned behavior. Most managers believe that power is fundamentally opaque so changing that model takes time.
--transparency is contextual. Managers will gradually be transparent with some and not with others--at least in some situations.
--trust is especially important to execs. They're not going to share info with people who have loose lips.
--some info simply can't be shared. I remember asking a question of Pat McGinnis, CEO of Ralston Purina, a guy I have a lot admiration for. He responded with a smile and a quick response, "Oh no. That's not information I'm going to share with you." And he explained why he couldn't. However, on other occasions, he was quite wiilling to share confidentialities about relevant issues, personnel, etc.
When there's info you want and you're not certain about whether your manager can or will give it to you, always give her an out when you ask for it. You might say something like, "I'm not certain you can share this info with me, but I'd like input about. . . . I need the info because. . . . And what I'd like to know is. . . ."
Most of the time I'm an incrementalist in my way of dealing with change. Go slowly, nudge the person occasionally, and keep it up until you get what you want, or you're told that dog won't hunt.